Fed up with low wages, unsafe working conditions, and weak union representation, members are organizing for change at one of Chicago's largest produce distributors.
More than 600 Local 703 Teamsters work at Anthony Marano Company—a major distributor of produce in Chicago.
Despite being union members, most members make minimum wage or just above.
Fed up with low wages, unsafe working conditions, and weak union representation, members are organizing for change with backing from TDU and Chicago Community and Workers Rights, a community group that supports immigrant workers on Chicago’s South Side.
The movement for change started at Marano last fall when members started holding weekly meetings and passing out leaflets about shop floor issues—low wages, two-tier health insurance, harassment, unsafe working conditions, and line speeds.
Their weekly meetings grew to more than 50 members.
When the City of Chicago announced plans to raise the minimum wage over the current rate of $15 an hour, management and Local 703 announced they would reopen the contract a year early to address wages.
Members seized the opportunity to push other contract issues.
More than 140 members signed a petition asking for a union meeting so they could discuss what they wanted to see improved in the new contract.
Local 703 had only ever called shop meetings at Marano, where management keeps a watchful eye. Members wanted to meet out of work—and they got what they wanted.
They chartered their own bus to the meeting and 200 members turned out to raise demands for raises, affordable health, and union representation for nonunion departments.
They also asked for bilingual materials and translation at meetings. Over 95% of all Marano workers speak Spanish as their first language.
Coming out of the meeting, Local 703 compiled a list of bargaining proposals that reflected members’ issues.
More than 70 Marano workers attended a TDU Contract Campaign training, where members planned a series of actions to involve and unite members to win contract improvements.
Marano management isn’t happy. They posted an illegal notice threatening to fire any Teamster that distributes union rights information on company property.
Federal law and the NLRA give workers the right to distribute leaflets and other information in nonwork areas at nonwork times.
Members have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. They’ve also gotten creative.
Banned from passing out leaflets, members showed up at work wearing baseball caps with the message: “Trabajadores Unidos” (Workers United) and the Teamster logo.
“We grew from a small group taking action. Now, I look around and see 150 of my coworkers united in this fight! It motivates us all to keep going because we know we aren’t alone in this fight.
"I know we’re going to win more in this contract if we keep on fighting.”